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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

UK accuses Spain of entering Gibraltar territorial waters

(13 August 2015)

UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire has accused Spain of unlawfully entering British territorial waters near Gibraltar. According to Swire, the incursion occurred on 9 August 2015 when Spanish vessels chasing suspected drug smugglers strayed into British Gibraltar territorial waters, actions which he said were “unacceptable and unlawful under the international law of the sea.” Royal Navy patrol ships escorted the vessels out of territorial waters.

The incursion follows a series of occasions where Spanish vessels pursuing smuggling operations crossed into British Gibraltar waters. In 2014, the UK questioned the Spanish ambassador about state research vessel accompanied by a police boat that crossed into British Gibraltar territorial waters, and recently a Spanish helicopter was spotted in British Gibraltar airspace. These incidents have increased tension between the UK and Spain over the disputed peninsula, which is owned by the UK but claimed by Spain.

The debate over the ownership of the peninsula has accelerated in recent years, as Spain tightened controls for travelers crossing the border to Gibraltar in response to the construction of an underwater reef in Gibraltar that Spain claims harms the local fishing industry. The European Commission responded to the stepped up border controls by noting that it had “serious concerns” about delays at the border.


UK slams Spain for unlawfully entering Gibraltar waters: Issue bares territorial dispute between EU states, 12 August 2015, by Kalyan Kumar for International Business Times,